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City moves on masked monkey shows


A street monkey wears a baby doll mask as it performs in a slum in Jakarta.

A street monkey wears a baby doll mask as it performs in a slum in Jakarta.

A street monkey wears a baby doll mask as it performs in a slum in Jakarta.

Indonesia's capital is getting rid of the monkey business as s ecurity forces conduct raids to rescue macaques used in masked street performances.

The order came from Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who wants all roadside monkey performances, known as topeng monyet, gone by next year.

He said that besides improving public order and stopping animal abuse, the move was aimed at preventing diseases carried by the monkeys.

The city government will buy back all monkeys used as street buskers for about £56 and shelter them at a 2.5-acre preserve at Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo. The handlers and caretakers will be given training to help find new jobs.

Animal rights groups have long campaigned for a ban on the shows, which often involve monkeys wearing plastic baby doll heads on their faces. They say the monkeys are hung from chains for long periods to train them to walk on their hind legs like humans.

Their teeth are pulled out so they cannot bite and they are tortured to remain obedient. The monkeys are often put in dresses and cowboy hats and forced to carry parasols or ride tiny bikes.

Femke den Haas of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network welcomed the decision, saying at least 22 monkeys had been rescued since the sweep began last week and quarantined for health issues.

She estimated about 350 animals were used as street performers in Jakarta, adding they were no longer able to live with other primates in zoos and could not defend themselves in the wild.

In 2011, backed by the city authority, the group rescued 40 monkeys used in shows, which are often performed when traffic is backed up at Jakarta's notoriously-congested junctions. Many suffered illnesses, including tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Many of the macaques are trained at a slum area in eastern Jakarta, known locally as "monkey village". A trained macaque can be sold for up to £84.

Sarinah, 37, who owns 13 monkeys used in the daily street shows, said the ban hurt her livelihood. Seven of her macaques have been confiscated in recent raids.

"Of course I'm disappointed ... but I cannot do anything!" said the mother of three who uses a single name, like many Indonesians. She said she took good care of the animals and loved them like her own children.

"They are the source of our life, how could we be cruel to them? No way," she said, adding that she earned about £1.90 a day from each monkey rented out to handlers.

She said she would keep her remaining monkeys hidden while waiting for a new job.

The mayor of Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java, has also announced plans to ban monkey shows there.